Lip Service Accessibility

Sites that purport to be and/or promote and/or design highly accessible web sites.
(If you can’t read the content, nothing else matters.)
Standard Values CSS medium, 1em, or 100% 10pt (roughly 83% of CSS medium) 125 500 125 500 100% or relative
W3C - World Wide Web Consortium
- prior edition
100% ~83% 255 765 190 510 100% actions match words (leads by example)
Site Base Content Font Size Minimum
Font Size
Base Color Brightness Base Color Difference Minimum Color Brightness Minimum Color Difference Width Notes
W3C - World Wide Web Consortium
- fall 2009 edition
82% ~77% relative actions no longer match words (no longer leads by example)
Assistive Technology News 11px 10px fixed invalid and presentational tag soup markup; no charset specified
Bee Cave Texas Library 13px 10.4px relative
Big Easy Web Design, Sheffield CSS small & x-small CSS x-small fixed "Website Design for Accessibility"
Dolphin 70% 55% unknown unknown unknown unknown fixed leaves background colors unset on major elements
Geekministry ~83% 75% 155 453 36 110 fixed
Juicy Studio 90.2% 72.2% 255 765 102 306 relative
The Paciello Group 75% 75% 255 765 77 255 100%
Performance Technologies Group 68% 12px 123 376 unknown unknown relative leaves background colors unset on some elements
Section 508 - The Road to Accessibility 12px 11px 238 714 100% has text sizer capped at 20px; substantial content disappears when text sizer is used
Skills for Access 69% 62.8% 204 612 102 306 fixed
The Usability Group 12px (unknown, in image) 184 552 114 345 fixed
Vision Australia 90% ~76% 187 561 187 561 100% has text size select system in which medium is smaller than the user default
WAI - Web Accessibility Initiative 90% 81% 199 597 191 552 100%
Web Accessibility Tools Consortium 90% 81% 100% ~83% 9px 255 765 222 544 fixed leaves background colors unset on some elements; invalid tag soup markup
Webcredible 75% 68% 255 765 228 654 100%
Westciv 75% 56.2% 193 579 193 579 fixed
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Site Name:
Note 1 - If you can’t read it, nothing else matters.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Note 2 - "Too small"

Virtually all the authors of the sites above have set fixed text sizes, and therein lies the obstacle to reaching all who are willing to see. Different people have different visual acuity, different hardware, different software settings, different physical settings, and so forth. None of these things have been taken into account by these authors. They need not make this omission, but do it because they can, or out of habit, or because they see others do it, etc.

They have the option to set their own preferences to suit themselves before designing, just as users have the option to do the same before surfing. By doing this first, and then sizing text using relative measures, such as %, em, ex, or keywords, they get to see the size they prefer, or need, and so does everyone else. Everybody wins. This is an unfulfilled potential major strength of the web compared to print media.

Do you suppose most web authors are among those with poor vision? Not likely, is it? No, as a group, they have better than average vision, with an eye for detail a cut above the population at large. So, their concept of how big is big enough is skewed smaller than average.

Do you suppose most web authors are using little old computer displays to do their work 40 hours per week. Not likely, is it? No, as a group, they have fine equipment, typically using displays much larger than average, 21" or larger in many cases. So, their concept of how big is big enough is further skewed smaller than average.

For this evaluation, the pages were visited using screen resolutions of 1152 X 864, 1280 X 960, 1400 X 1050, and/or 1600 X 1200. Since the advent of very high resolutions and monitors of 17" inches and larger, the old standards of 640 X 480 VGA and 800 X 600 SVGA have lost so much ground that fewer than half of users use them. 1024 X 768 is the most common "happy" or "ideal" resolution for popular low cost flat panel displays. 1024 X 768 is today’s median resolution, making those used here represent "high" resolution.

The higher the resolution, the smaller the physical space between logical screen pixels (px). So, a font size of 12px on a medium sized display at typical 1024 X 768 resolution will be considerably larger physically (e.g. on 15" diagonal 12px is 2.4 mm tall) than than it will at 1600 X 1200 resolution, even on a significantly larger display (e.g. on 19" diagonal 12px is 2.0 mm tall). By comparison, front page newspaper text is about 2.3 mm tall. See how many more or fewer px are required to achieve equivalent physical size at alternate resolutions, and also how big physically various px values equate to.

Accessibility experts all agree, relative sizing based upon the user’s preferred size is the right way to size and position text in web design.

Note 3 - Your browser default size vs. CSS keyword sizes.

Here are the CSS keyword sizes based upon the current default in your browser:

If medium above is not your preferred size, then you haven’t set your own default as you should.

Note 4 - Browser default defaults.

At 120 DPI, 16px produces a default font size compatible with other apps and the OS, 10pt, which is the size recommended by usability expert Jakob Nielsen as a web page minimum. 120 DPI is the "large fonts" setting in Windows, which defaults to 96 DPI. At 96 DPI, 16px is 12pt. 16px is the default default in Gecko browsers, while Internet Explorer defaults to 12pt regardless of the DPI (system font size) setting. All modern browsers provide some means to adjust default settings to suit their users’ preferences.

Some References

Sites formerly listed above, removed after improvements


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